Our View: Lots of ideas for using the surplus

The February forecast is in, and the state’s projected budget surplus has increased to $1.65 billion, up from $1.4 billion in the last forecast.

The size of the budget surplus is substantial, and there is no shortage of ideas on what to do with it. Gov. Mark Dayton has already proposed his $45.8 billion budget for the next biennium, upping state spending about $1.9 billion, while shifting about $733 million in Medicaid spending to a separate health care fund. He proposes more funding for preschool education, conservation, a public option for health insurance, and a gas tax increase.

Republicans in the Leglslature want to enact some meaningful tax relief measures instead of more spending.

The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities wants to see a full $45.5 million increase in Local Government Aid, bringing the LGA funding back up to the 2002 benchmark. The CGMC argues increasin LGA is the best way to keep property taxes down.

We’d like to see a balanced approach to the surplus: spend it where it is truly needed, and return the rest to the taxpayers.

The state does have areas that need more spending. Fixing roads and bridges is an important task that has been neglected far too long. Any funding that can be directed to roads and bridges will be money well spent. Expanding broadband coverage in rural areas would be a wise investment.

Tax relief could come in many forms. Increasing LGA funding would provide relief to the regressive property tax. Tax relief that encourages business growth would be desirable.

Coming up with a budget that meets the state’s needs without bankrupting the taxpayers is always difficult. The $1.65 billion surplus should help ease the task.

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